Thursday, October 30, 2008

Site #31 Rajko Radovanovic: Precondition; N.Villere @ Marigny Street, Upper 9th Ward, New Orleans; UNVEILING SAT NOV 1, 2-5 pm

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Rajko Radovanovic originally employed the above statement in a series of works and installations dealing with the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Frequently combining text and image, Radovanovic explored the ways in which people’s moral standards can be ‘re-set’ and modified to allow them to support and accept the brutalisation of their fellow citizens. Radovanovic comments, “Our modern political establishments, by influencing public opinion through the media, create the notion of ‘other’ – the modern word for ‘enemy’. It is through this concept of ‘difference’ that they seek to provide a moral justification for harming or oppressing fellow human beings.”

The most successful component of "Precondition" remains the abiding relationships that grew out of AORTA's community outreach in this neighborhood. As our mission statement explains, our goal is not to bring attention to "the artist" but to the people who live and survive in the post-disaster landscape. It is AORTA's belief that "the art object" and all subsequent modernist notions of "artistic success" are secondary to the process of humbly witnessing the daily struggles of thses communities - if one presumes to be doing legitimate community-based work. Being of the post-disaster community of New Orleans myself I never cease to be amazed by how relevant and vital working from this point of view continues to be.

Though St. Roch is generally "recovered" post-K (at least by AORTA standards, given we usually work in areas that are still living without grocery stores and gas stations), there remains an incredible imbalance between the opportunities for the citizens of St. Roch compared to those in wealthier, less traumatized neighborhoods. AORTA certainly doesn't presume to solve the deep cultural problems of classism and racism with something as simple as a mural that merely echoes a political reality that this community has long since internalized. Again, "Precondition" is secondary to it being there at all - and as such it functions wonderfully as a signpost for outsiders to connect with, a sort of billboard describing the daily realities of living under oppression.

Though I truly believe that the skill and care Mr. Radovanovic invested in the painting of "Precondition" honors the site and survivors very poignantly, it is my experience that he true art of this installation is how my understanding of my neighbor's struggles has deepened, how genuinely interested and insightful the neighborhood remain about the relevance of our mission, and the new friendships that have evolved as a result. Again, AORTA never assumes that we enter these communities with something to teach - it is always and only the other way around. In this regard, "Precondition" was a terrific success and we are very proud to have been able to initiate this process with Mr. Radovanovic and my amazing St. Roch family. - Elizabeth Underwood, Director

AORTA Projects thanks site sponsor Thomasine Bartlett for her passionate support of AORTA Projects. We also thank Miss Jordan, Miss Jackie, Miss Tia, Colby, D-John, Joseph, and the other neighbors of this site who have imbued "Precondition" with its meaning. We also thank the musicians of Bye and Bye and Whole Foods for their continued support and investment in the post-disaster communities of New Orleans.